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'Protect & Enjoy,' an AUDIO Update: Meeting with Gavin, Fighting Plastics and Finding the Good News in California's MPA Network

No time to read? Unenthused about long blog posts? No worries! Listen to Surfrider California's audio update right here!

Prefer to use your eyes? We got you. Transcript (with time stamps) below.

California's governor... what's it like being a room with him... talking about... sea level rise? Is sea level rise going to destroy us all? Will California’s network of marine protected areas offer a little good news in a sea of bad? Should we hold plastic producers responsible for plastic pollution? How do you feel about saving our ocean, waves and beaches? 

This is Jennifer Savage, your Surfrider Foundation California Policy Manager. I’m checking in from a very May Gray San Francisco. I wish I could tell you the waves looked inviting, but it's all junked out from the wind. One brave... brave... desperate... somewhere in there... soul paddling out.

First, let me say thank you, because I sure couldn’t do this work without Surfrider’s volunteers, supporters and chapter members, and all the motivation and guidance you provide. On that note… last week, like so many weeks, was a big week!

Meeting with Governor Gavin Newsom, center.

Governor Gavin Newsom and sea level rise (1:13)

The most notable big thing that happened was that on Wednesday, I joined a group of environmental advocates in Sacramento to meet with Governor Gavin Newsom, as well as Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot, Secretary for Environmental Protection Jared Blumenthal, and several members of the governor’s staff. 

Now during his tenure as Lt Governor, when he also served on the State Lands Commission, Newsom generally stood strong for our coast. He successfully championed closing down the illegal CEMEX sand mine in Monterey County, stood firmly on the side of access at Martins Beach and ramped up attention to the pollution crisis in the Tijuana River Valley. But since being elected governor, his priorities – understandably – have been social and economic concerns with conversations about the environment focusing on more inland issues. All absolutely imperative problems to solve.

So I wanted to acknowledge the importance of what he’s been doing and also tie it to the existential threat California’s facing from sea level rise. I’ll tell you, I was nervous going in! I’ve spent a lot of time in the Capitol building, testified in hearings big and small, had a zillion legislative meetings, but I’d never been to the governor’s office. 

However, when it was my turn to speak, Governor Newsom broke in to say he remembered me from the many times I testified at State Lands – he actually said he missed hearing me – which should encourage everyone to go to more public meetings more often, because not only might you make a difference in the moment, but sometimes it pays off in the future in ways and places you don’t expect. 

That aside, my pitch began with noting that despite his office’s current inattention to sea level rise, the fact is that all the work he’s doing to combat homelessness, solve the housing crisis, ensure health care and address myriad other social and economic issues matters greatly to protecting our environment; when people are experiencing extreme inequity and insecurity about their day-to-day survival, rallying them to take action and make the sacrifices necessary to solve, to the extent possible, climate change and sea level rise is much, much harder.

I then went on to say we do need his office to talk more publicly about the threat of sea level rise – a recent study by USGS predicts sea level rise to be a greater economic and environmental disaster than even the worst wildfires and earthquakes. Think of sea level rise as a slow-moving Hurricane Katrina. We can’t stop it, but if we act now, we can stave off the most severe damage, for example, maybe only lose half the beaches in Southern California instead of the two-thirds we’re currently sacrificing. Hopefully he took this advice to heart.

So that was Wednesday.

California's marine protected areas as a form of hope (3:56)

On Thursday, I joined representatives from the Dept of Fish & Wildlife, the MPA Collaborative Network and the Resighini Rancheria as part of a panel discussion on marine protected area stewardship. There’s probably a more exciting way to say that – one of the constant problems I’ve had talking about MPAs is how immediately wonky the language gets! Nonetheless… The Ocean Protection Council’s “Safeguarding Our Underwater Wilderness: A Deep Dive into California’s Marine Protected Areas” workshop was a well-run, fun and informative look at the history, science, studies, impacts and promise of California’s MPA network. 

I was part of the panel because I served on the North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group back in the day and now serve on the Expert Assessment Group for the IUCN Green List. You can read more about that effort and find links to the OPC workshop and subsequent meeting at In short, the council approved funding for multiple MPA monitoring, enforcement and education projects and in a time when nearly every news story about the ocean triggers despair –as I mentioned, I’m in San Francisco right now and we’ve had 13 gray whales wash up in the Bay Area dead since March – so yes, in these times, a little hope is a welcome thing. And that’s what, beyond the science, MPAs provide: Hope.

Fun with Save the Waves (5:10)

Thursday evening, I popped down to Santa Cruz where our friends at Save The Waves were throwing their annual “Life is a Wave” gala, which provided an excuse to slide into a fancy blue dress and join a stellar crowd in honoring Wave Savers Bianca Valenti and Reese Pacheco – our own CEO Chad Nelsen was honored as such back in 2016. And of course our Santa Cruz chapter deserves a big shout out for the amazing job their Blue Water Task Force volunteers are doing! They’ve been working hard to get Cowell’s off the beach bummer list – check out the chapter’s water quality page. Speaking of bummers, we’re going to really miss our about-to-be-former Plastic Pollution Manager Trent Hodges but we do wish him well in his new role as Conservation Programs Manager at Save the Waves. 

Surfrider has hired a new Plastic Pollution Manager, who will be introduced very soon, and we also look forward to the return of Shannon Waters, our California point person on plastics, from maternity leave. 

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
When you come to a plastic fork on the beach, call your elected officials and demand change!

Help fight plastic pollution! (6:14)

Speaking of plastics and California, we have some significant legislation we want to see passed this session and May 31 is the deadline for bills to make it out of their house of origin! So here’s an update…

We’ll start with SB 54 and AB 1080, both of which create the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act. If passed, this Act will reduce unnecessary packaging, cut down our reliance on disposable items, and redesign products to be truly recyclable or compostable. Specifically, 75 percent of single-use plastic packaging and products sold or distributed in California must be able to be reduced, recycled, or composted by 2030.  

Please, contact your state elected and tell them to support SB 54 and AB 1080!

We also have an action alert for SB 424. This bill addresses the #1 most littered item at the source by effectively eliminating single-use filters for tobacco products, and requiring extended producer responsibility for e-cigarettes. Surfrider believes producers need to take their share of responsibility! This effort would help stop cigarette butts from polluting California beaches each year. The bill is out of the Senate and into the Assembly, so contact your Assembly Member and urge them to support SB 424, the Tobacco Product Recyclability and Producer Responsibility Act.

In addition to these critical bills, we’re tracking and supporting a whole slew of legislative efforts – take a look at the legislation page at

So that’s it for this missive! Again, your homework is to tell your state representative to vote for SB 54, AB 1080 and SB 424. You should also check out the California regional page at And please, if you’re able, spend a little time at the coast. And if you can’t, send me an email explaining what’s preventing you from getting there – I’m at Thanks for hanging out with me and, on behalf of the entire California team, for being part of our powerful activist network. Hope to see you at the beach!